Friday, 30 March 2012

Farewell dear friend

The warm sunshine filtered through the forest's trees, and when we looked up, the sky was a brilliant deep blue. We sat in the courtyard, warming our faces, enjoying the peace and listening to the birds. Only the occasional roar of an aeroplane overhead gave any clue that we were on the outskirts of London.

We had set off from Corbridge at 5.30am. It was still dark as my dad got himself comfortable in the back of my car. He'd wanted to come down with me to keep me company. :-) The weather forecast was great. Another beautiful day ahead.

We soon ate the miles up on the A1 - and stopped at Peterborough for a bacon sarnie, a coffee and a rest. Only one hour to Epping Forest - our destination for the day to say a final farewell to my dear friend Carole.

We arrived very early at the forest, but some others were there too - also enjoying the sunshine and the peaceful surroundings.

After some time, and with more friends gathered, the black car drove slowly into the courtyard followed by Carole's close family. We followed them in to the ceremonial hall - a beautiful, modern hexhagonal timber structure - filled with light and with a window to the sky at the peak. This was in no way a religious service, but sitting there in that lovely space, you couldn't help feel 'something.'

The hall was full with Carole's friends and family, but gazing up at the 'window to the sky' I knew that there were also hundreds of others with us in that room from all over the world. People that Carole had never even met, but people who Carole had helped through her blog and her contact on the Cancer Research Forum. Everyone she'd touched was packed into that room.

The service was led by a lovely man - quietly spoken and gentle. He said some comforting words and we listened to music that Carole and her family had chosen.

And then, Carole's eldest son, James, came to the front. He spoke about his mum and shared some wonderful childhood memories that had the audience laughing one minute then reaching for hankies the next. It can be such a cliche sometimes to say 'Your mum would have been so proud of you,' but I can honestly say that had James been my son I would have completely burst with pride. What an amazing son you have Carole :-)

After the service, we followed the procession into the woodland. Our feet crucnched over last year's oak leaves and a carpet of pine cones. Djamel had chosen his mum's final resting place, and what a perfect spot! He explained to me afterwards why he had chosen that place above the others. A great deal of thought and consideration had clearly gone into his decision, and, once again, I know Carole would be beaming with pride for her youngest son.

We all walked back to the hall for tea and coffee afterwards. A chance to relax, dry our eyes and chat. I finally got to meet Rab...(though I felt I already knew him!) and some other members of Carole's family. I also met Louise - an old friend of Carole who often commented on the blog. It was so nice to meet her in 'real life.':-)

And so, it was soon time to leave. I hugged a few people, said goodbye, and strolled off back to the car with my dad.

Last time I came down to London to see Carole in January, I remember feeling fairly bewildered as I left. A feeling of 'how the hell did I get here?' I thought about the twists and turns in life that lead you into places that you would never imagine arriving in. Why was I there in Clapham that day? 'Because of cancer, that's why,' I concluded...

Carole - After I left Epping Forest, I didn't feel that bewilderment any more. I didn't ask myself why and how I was standing in a forest in London. I didn't have to. I was there not because of cancer. I was there because of our friendship. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to be standing there amongst all your lovely family and friends. Cancer put you and I in the same place at the same time...but our friendship grew far bigger than the cancer ever did or could.

Here's one of the poems read at Carole's farewell. Its perfect -

After Glow
I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an after glow
of smiles when life is done,
I’d like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing
times and bright and
summer days.
I’d like the tears of those who
grieve, to dry before the sun,
Of happy memories that I leave
When life is done.

~Helen Lowrie Marshall

Sleep well, dear friend :-)


  1. Lisa,
    Thank you for bringing the rest of us to Carole's service. Cancer brought many of us to Carole and each of us lost a dear friend. I think you described the friendship phenomenon perfectly. Carole touched so many lives for good.

    What you have written here is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady. I have admired James since I read his blogs during Carole's surgery. A fine man indeed. And knowing that Djamel chose her final resting place brings a smile to my face. His thoughtfulness always impressed me. You may yet play a further role in his life. Who knows? :)

    Again, thank you for this lovely post. I have followed your blog via Carole's for some time. Your book gave me the impetus to create my own book. Now my children have an account of Dad's year with rectal cancer. You, too, have impacted the cancer community for good.

    Kindest regards,

    1. Hello Steve :-)

      Thanks so much for that lovely comment.

      I'm glad I made you feel like you were there. I truly 'felt' that everyone she had touched was there with us all on that day.

      Carole's final resting place is perfect, and Dj described to me how he would get there to visit whenever he felt like it. A couple of tubes and a cab ride - very straightforward. It will be a lovely place to visit throughout the whole of the year, as the forest follows the seasons.

      I'm also glad you've created your own book! My 'spare' copy is currently doing the rounds of friends, and friends of friends... I havent seen it for a year!

      Steve - I have enjoyed reading your comments on Carole's blog over the months - you always write so beautifully. James made a special mention to all his mum's 'cyber friends' - she gathered many of them, didn't she :-)

      A very special lady indeed :-)

      I hope you are well Steve - thanks you again for your lovely comment


  2. Thank you for this wonderful Post Lisa, Carole was an amazing lady x

    1. Thank you, Sarah - Carole truly was a very special lady x

  3. Lisa that was beautiful thankyou ,i have no words ,Tonys mum Ann xx

    1. Hello Tony's mum Ann :-)

      It was sad that Tony couldn't make it. I know he desperately wanted to be there, which is one of the reasons why I wrote a little account of the whole thing. I wanted him and others to feel like they had been there.

      Carole's family all asked after him, and sent there very best wishes and love.

      I know he has made a big decision in the last couple of days - I'll give him a ring at some point soon to chat about it.

      I hope you're well Ann - lovely to hear from you :-)

      Lisa x

  4. Thank you Lisa. Carole felt of you as a very special friend. She told me many times on my visits to the hospice how grateful she was for your friendship and yes, she wished she met you a long time ago. Much love xxx

    1. Sarah - I keep thinking about Wednesday, and although it was an extremely sad and emotional day, I have to say that I left Epping feeling uplifted. Your family are just so lovely - and I know that you will all look out for each other, support each other and help each other wherever possible.

      We have to keep remembering the words of that poem...

      ...I’d like the tears of those who
      grieve, to dry before the sun,
      Of happy memories that I leave
      When life is done.

      And there'll be very happy times ahead too!

      Sarah - thank you for passing all my messages on when Carole was in the hospice - it meant a lot to me knowing that she had received them.

      Keep in touch - and who knows, we might all land on you in Rhodes one day! lol!

      Much love as always,

      Lisa xxxx

    2. I wish I could have been in the forest while Carole was put to her forever resting place.. I didn't know her very well, but yet I felt I did know her. What a fighting loving spirit she had. I met her through blogging, she was always very supportive and had encouraging words when I was feeling down with my Breast Cancer. I love her resting place. Please give my best to her husband, children and family.
      Love Alicia (Niagara, Ontario, Canada)

    3. Hello Alli :-)
      Thanks for stopping by and thank you for your comment. :-)
      The forest felt so perfect for Carole - and especially since Dj chose (very carefully) the place he thought best for her and for him. :-)
      Carole will be missed by so many people around the world. She had an amazing way with words didn't she. - Not just in her own blog posts, but in the 'personal touch' in her replies and comments with all her followers and all those she followed.
      I will certainly pass on your good wishes to her family.
      Hope you are well
      Lisa x